2010-2011 Stage Center Theatre Mainstage Season
Dead Man’s Cell Phone,
by Sarah Ruhl (Chicago playwright)
Directed by Lisa Cantwell
Fall, 2010




A cell phone rings continuously in a café.  When a woman becomes annoyed that the man who owns it won’t answer it, she discovers that he is dead.  Oddly drawn to the man, she feels compelled to keep his phone, and in so doing becomes entangled with the man’s personal relationships and the mysteries surrounding his life. The play is a thought provoking and whimsical dark comedy that examines issues of personal responsibility, integrity and communication.

Graphic from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Cast_____
A WOMAN, JEAN.................................................................Caitlin Inman
A DEAD MAN, GORDON......................................................Brad Cantwell
GORDON'S MOTHER, MRS. GOTTLIEB................................Marie Goodkin
GORDON'S WIDOW, HERMIA...............................................Victoria Montalbano
GORDON'S BROTHER, DWIGHT..........................................Rand Ringgenberg
THE OTHER WOMAN / THE STRANGER...............................Anisa Pashaj
ENSEMBLE...............................Erin Elizabeth Clyne, Danijela Krizan

Production Staff_____
Stage Manager……………………………..........Elisabeth Jackson
Scenic Designer………………………...…..…….Jessica Kuehnau
Costume Designer…………….…......…………….Jana Anderson
Light Designer……………………….…....………John Rodriguez
Choreography…………….…………...…..………….…L.E.D.E.
Wardrobe……………….………..………………Caitlin Varpness
Sound Design…………………………………….…Dave Ropinski
Sound Board Operator…...…………………..……..Joseph Kaplan
Light Board Operator……...……………..………...Melanie Flores
Running Crew……..….Julian Fishov, Jamison Hild, Steve Jankowski
Set Construction…….………………...………..Theatre Practicum

Turn Off Your Cell Phones Or Else

Dead Man’s Cell Phone, by Sarah Ruhl, is a quirky magical play. It begins earth-bound at a coffee house and manages to fly off to different locales, even Heaven. Each place is rendered in an abbreviated setting, wherein suggestions of place undermine any attempt to see this play realistically. But much of the play’s quirkiness and magic resides in Ruhl’s use of language and in the oddity of her characters.

Ruhl puts into her characters’ mouths some wonderful phrases and statements: “Road kill of the mind” is used to describe unnecessary concerns, irrelevancies. Steak rib-eye is “Ribbons of flesh. Ribbons of fat.  All in one bite.”  How about this: “I think heaven must be like an embossed invitation”? Or “The only communication device God didn’t invent was gossip.” I’m sure viewers and readers will find their own examples of Ruhl’s  language play.

The premise is quite simple. Jean is a plain woman who has little going on in her life. She sits in a café one day reading. Gordon sits nearby and, annoyingly to Jean, doesn’t answer his ringing cell phone. Jean asks him to, but he doesn’t respond. She discovers that he is dead, and then his phone rings again. Jean answers it and continues answering it, receiving calls from Gordon’s mother, his wife, his mistress and his business acquaintances.

And each call creates a series of accidents that lead Jean through a maze, ultimately, of her own making. For Jean is an improviser, but always for the good of those around her. The play is by turns serious and silly. Gordon’s death is never really a serious matter, but that doesn’t stop Jean from making the easy joke: “No, he can’t come to the phone right now.”

The quirkiness of the characters may be seen in Jean’s lack of a background or friends or family. Everything we know of her is made up by her in front of us. And Gordon’s family, for example, is a bit weird: Gordon’s mother, Mrs. Gottlieb, is an out-of-control, meat-eating manic-depressive . . . perhaps; Hermia, his widow, greets his death without emotion until Jean lies about Gordon’s affection; his brother, Dwight, laments that he was so named because his mother felt sorry for the name Dwight.

Their quirkiness gives each of the characters a magical moment. By ‘magical’ I mean in the way that  poetic justice is magical or in the way that a miracle is wholesome and appropriate. Jean’s moments are multiple and constant—her magic is in healing the unhappy soul. Jean’s magic leads to the magical moments of the others, when each learns in essence what it is that they love. In Dwight’s case, it is a wonderful discovery.

Ruhl’s language also has its charms. The opening scene establishes that this drama is fun and playful. Other scenes enhance that impression. Here, Mother explains her self:

“We’re not religious. Our name means God-loving in German but we’re not German anymore. Hermia chose a Catholic Mass for Gordon because she likes to kneel and get up. I did not raise my children with any religion. Perhaps I should have. Certain brands of guilt can be inculcated in a secular way but other brands of guilt can only be obtained with reference to the metaphysical. Gordon did not experience enough guilt. Dinner will be served at seven. Do you eat meat?”

The ironies in this speech are delightful: The obvious God-loving-atheists joke is followed by gentle expressions of Mrs. Gottlieb’s peculiar personality. She feels guilty about not making Gordon feel guilty. That his funeral is a Catholic Mass is explained by the fact that Hermia “likes to kneel and get up.” Those words then are followed by “I did not raise my children . . ..” The quick return to everyday life also has an ironic effect. After  metaphysical, Mrs. Gottlieb’s final words here stand out in some relief: “Dinner will be served at seven. Do you eat meat?”

All in all, the play is a delightfully strange mix. What it means in the end—what it tells us about being human—is rather understated. Perhaps the best way of putting it is that we live and die according to our own desires even when someone else gets the last bowl of lobster bisque.

Patrick McGuire
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Mr. McGuire’s website is http//McGuireHimself.com
This production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone is done with permission from Samuel French, Inc.
Cast Profiles________


Caitlin Inman is thrilled beyond belief to be performing in yet another NEIU Stage Center Production. You may have most recently seen her in My Sister Eileen as Eileen. Caitlin will be graduating this spring with a bachelor’s in Communication, Media, and Theatre. She would like to thank Anna for all her endless support! She would also like to thank Lisa for always believing in her and for giving her the chance to be in such an incredible show with such an amazing cast!

Brad Cantwell recently appeared at the Stage Center Theatre as Richard in Hay Fever, as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, in various roles in Vaudeville America, as Richard in Living Out, as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as Amenuensis/Geronte in The Illusion and as Teddy in How He Lied To Her Husband.  Brad is thrilled to work with the talented cast, crew and most especially the director, of Dead Man’s Cell Phone.  Innumerable thanks to Lisa and McCoy for filling his life with love.

Marie Goodkin is delighted to be back at Stage Center, where she was seen as Catherine Petkoff in Arms and the Man in 2009. A long time Chicago–area actress and singer, she has appeared at Theatre Building Chicago, Village Players, Circle Theatre, Lincoln Square Theatre, Dark Night Theatrical Productions, and Open Door Rep, among others, and at several local colleges. Favorite roles include Betty Meeks in The Foreigner, Edna in The Oldest Profession, Guido’s Mother in Nine, and Ethel in On Golden Pond. Love always to Ira and a wish for many more rib-eyes!

Victoria Montalbano is so excited to be performing with this talented group! She was last seen at the Stage Center Theatre in Hay Fever. She has a degree in Drama from Syracuse University, and has performed in countless productions throughout the Chicago-land area. She has been lucky enough to study and perform all over the world, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, and she toured Greece in the classic The Trojan Women. Thanks to her amazingly supportive family and friends.

Rand Ringgenberg is happy to be back performing here at the Stage Center Theatre after a two year absence. He has lived in 3 different states since then but is content to be back where he began, trying to finish his degree here at NEIU before he turns 50. He would like to remind everyone to turn off their cell phones because when one rings you never know what is going to happen.

Anisa Pashaj is delighted to be a part of the amazing cast and crew of Dead Man’s Cell Phone. She has studied acting at Act One Studios and plans to further pursue her passion on stage as well as in the film and voice-over industry. Anisa is fascinated by accents and believes her voices are a part of her and without characters to pour them into she couldn’t possibly keep them all bottled up inside. Her love and respect for the art of acting has really grown this summer; being on the set of films that were being filmed in Chicago really made her admire all the effort crew members put into each project to make it possible. In consideration she would like to thank the crew of Dead Man’s Cell Phone for using their talents to make this show possible. You guys are what make the magic possible! And to the cast…Let’s go out there and break a leg!

Erin Elizabeth Clyne is originally from Florida, and is ecstatic to be participating in her first play with The Stage Center Theatre. After graduating Summa cum laude with her Psychology degree from George Mason University, she has been seen on Chicago stages as a contemporary dancer with Dimitri Peskov Dance Theatre, as well as Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. Erin would like to thank her adorable boyfriend, friends, family, and teachers for their encouragement and support. 

Danijela Krizan has completed her ballet education at Lujo Davico  Ballet school and danced  five years as a professional  classical dancer. She has also acted in the role of Edna, one of the main characters in the play Prisoner of Second Avenue. Danijela has also enjoyed working at the Stage Center Theater as the House Manager and sharing all the wonderful moments with the crew.

Artistic Staff Profiles________

Lisa Cantwell (Director) is an instructor here at NEIU in the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre, where she recently completed her Master's degree. Directing Sarah Ruhl's beautifully written and poignant play Dead Man's Cell Phone has been a dream come true for her. Lisa wants the supremely talented cast to know what a privilege it has been to watch them bring these characters to life each day.  Her sincere appreciation goes out to the fantastic crew for all of their hard work. She would also like to express her deepest gratitude to the exquisite Anna for her wisdom each step of the way, both on and off the stage. Thanks and thanks and thanks to Jessica, John and Jana for their brilliant creativity and tireless dedication to this project. And to Monkey, the best son ever, and to B, Z. Okay, someone pinch me now.

Jessica Kuehnau (Costume Designer) is pleased to be designing her third season for the Stage Center Theatre and third year as technical faculty for NEIU.  Since completing her M.F.A. in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Ms. Kuehnau has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Pegasus Players, Circle Theatre, Griffin, Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Art Center and Backstage Theatre.  She is also the resident set designer at North Park University and a founding ensemble member of Adventure Stage Center Chicago

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at NEIU six years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center Theatre productions.  Most recent designs include Lucky Stiff, An Inspector Calls, Arms and the Man, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lettice and Lovage, The Illusion, Electra, and Charley’s Aunt as well as Thymely Theatre’s productions of Taking Steps and Stage Door.

Jana Anderson (Costume Designer) has worked with the Stage Center Theatre for the last few years  Her work has also been featured by numerous theatre groups including Redmoon Theatre, Light Opera Works, Irish Repertory Theatre, just to name a few  Prior to coming to the United States, Jana created elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia  When she is not preparing costumes for theatre productions, Jana is busy designing and creating unique haute couture fashions for individual clients in the US and Europe

Elisabeth Jackson (Stage Manager) is proud to be making her NEIU Stage Center Stage Managing debut with this wonderful cast, crew and director! She is currently working on her Communications, Media and Theatre degree at NEIU and looks forward to graduating in the Spring of 2011. Other experiences that she has had in the theatre include acting, dancing, choreography and assistant directing of shows. She has also worked with children in Glen Ellyn at Curtain Up Classroom teaching theatre classes, which is what she will be pursuing after graduation. Thanks to all her friends and family that have supported her in this passion! 

Roula Villis (Assistant Stage Manager) is very excited to be assistant stage manager of her first show at the Stage Center. She recently appeared at the Stage Center Theatre in Totally Red and A Tale of Two Cities. She would like to thank the talented director Lisa, cast, crew and the Communication, Media, and Theatre department for giving her another great learning experience. 


Theatre Personnel________
Artistic and Managing Director……. Anna Antaramian
Theatre Bookkeeper…………….....Joanne Cartalino
Theatre Manager………….…..Blagovesta Ranguelova
Newsletter Editor……….………….Jessica Slizewski
Assistant to Theatre Manager….……...Carolyn Bernal
Box Office Manager………….…………..Mike Jando
House Manager………………….….Melissa DeJesus

Special thanks to:
The Department of Communication, Media, and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Katrina Bell-Jordan, Anna Antaramian, Patrick McGuire, Elisabeth Jackson, Roula Villis, Cici Varpness, Mike Jando, and Blagovesta Ranguelova











































Additional pictures from the collection by David Ropinski


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